Supermarket support needed

Supermarkets need to support home beef producers at the present time of crisis in the industry to ensure future supplies of Scotch beef, according to Donald Biggar, chairman of Quality Meat Scotland.

Producers were already voting with their feet with an 11% reduction in the Scottish beef suckler herd over the past decade and this trend was accelerating, Biggar told the annual meeting of the McIntosh Donald Producer Club.

"If retailers buy cheap imports at the present time, they may find Scotch beef will be difficult to source in the future because supplies just won't be there," Biggar warned.

But prospects for the future were more encouraging for those producers who could ride out the current storm.

UK consumption of beef was at a record level of more than a million tonnes a year and self-sufficiency was only 75%, even with over thirty-month beef coming back on to the market.

Export markets were re-opening again and Europe represented a huge potential market with 400,000 tonnes of beef being imported each year.

Recent trends had shown that beef might not be as plentiful on the world market as in the past. Foot-and-mouth disease had impacted on supplies from Brazil, an export ban had been imposed by the government in Argentina to maintain supplies for home consumption at affordable prices and drought had affected supplies from Australia.

"There is a huge hungry market out there and Scotland is well placed to supply the higher end of that market where there is less price sensitivity," said Biggar.

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